Hey there all, and welcome to the final instalment of the 1984 World Cup where I have some semblance of what I’m talking about. Because after this article is finished my opinions will be fully half-logic, half-guess work. So that’s gonna be fun for everyone.
Anyway, George Orwell’s paranoia about Stalinism has today brought us to his fictional continent of Eurasia, which basically encompasses the entirety of Europe, with the exception of the British Isles and Iceland, which you can find off in the wastelands of Oceania. And much like the wastelands of Oceania, we have a heck of a load of top players to whittle down to a squad of 23 here. So that means you’ll probably find a lot of my decisions illogical, controversial, or, in some way, shape or form, down right moronic. But this website is my baby, and much like if I were a father with a child, I will defend my choices/baby with my life.
And now, before I get too off topic with this analogy, let’s dive into the wonderful world of socialism and pick ourselves a European XI to bring honour to the Party.
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer, Jan Oblak & Marc-André ter Stegen
Starting us off in goal, we’ve already got ourselves a bit of a headache in selecting who gets in. I’d say our number one has to be Manuel Neuer, everyone’s favourite ‘sweeper-keeper’ who remains one of the world’s best, even if he has suffered from the odd inconsistent patch as he enters his mid-30s. But still, his aggressive and all-out approach to keeping goal, combined with his awesome reflexes, make him a safe bet for the squad.
Joining him on the bench, we have Atlético Madrid’s Slovenian shot-stopper Jan Oblak, and Neuer’s understudy in the German national team, Marc-André ter Stegen, both of whom have proven themselves to be among the best at a consistently high level over the past few years. And for anyone who hasn’t seen Oblak in action at Anfield recently, go ahead and watch the highlights and then tell me he isn’t a class act.
Those three are probably the best choices I have, but I’ll give mentions to David de Gea, Thibaut Courtois, Wojciech Szczesny, Hugo Lloris, Roman Bürki and Rui Patricio. Maybe if there was a ‘B-team’ squad they could all play together.
Centre-Backs: Virgil van Dijk, Raphäel Varane, Sergio Ramos, Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Pavard & David Alaba
Now you may have noticed that usually I’d have included right-backs before moving into the centre-back options. But this team isn’t like most other teams I’ve created. This is the first team on this site to play in a 3-5-2 formation, mainly because I determined the centre-back options to simply be better than my full-back options, and it would be unfair to include full-backs I believe to be lesser players than the centre-backs I would prefer to include. So, I’ve included six centre-backs for this team, but I’ve also decided to tactically include players who aren’t just world-class, but could also do a solid job at full-back if need be.
For the record, full-backs such as Jordi Alba, Dani Carvajal, Ricardo Pereira and Nico Schultz are all players who I rate quite highly, but I think it’s for everyone’s benefit that I select the players I have.
So, as a starting back three, I’ve gone with Virgil van Dijk down the middle, Sergio Ramos to his right and another Real Madrid man, Raphäel Varane, to his left. The inclusion of van Dijk is a pretty simple one, since he recently came second in Ballon d’Or voting, and the Liverpool defence has looked infinitely more stable since his arrival. I don’t necessarily agree with his Ballon d’Or placing, but there’s no denying his quality. Having the experience of Ramos on his right-hand side is also a valuable asset, as he’s been one of Real’s most consistent performers over the past decade, even if his temperament does sometimes get the better of him. Varane, on his left, is just a classy defender whatever way you look at it, and this back three is pretty formidable.
Ramos is also handy in the sense he can step in at right-back in the case of a formation change, as is our first substitute, Benjamin Pavard. Pavard may have made his name as a full-back at the 2018 World Cup, but has since proven his quality playing centrally. And to complement the other centre-backs with some left-footed pizazz, we’re also going to include Aymeric Laporte and David Alaba, two physically imposing players who, again, also offer some defensive versatility.
This section may prove controversial, especially since Matthijs de Ligt, Clément Lenglet, Toby Alderweireld, Mats Hummels, Jan Vertonghen, Milan Škriniar, Giorgio Chiellini, and many, many more, are all forced to make way. But that’s what happens when you have an entire continent of players to select from.
Central Midfielders: Luka Modrić, N’Golo Kanté, Joshua Kimmich & Toni Kroos
On we move into central midfield, and, to be quite honest, it really doesn’t get any easier from here on in. I’ve decided, ultimately, to go for a mix of creativity, defensive solidarity, and box-to-box engine-ness, meaning I’ve got Luka Modrić and N’Golo Kanté starting in the middle of the park. Because, if you know anything about football, the mix I was looking for can basically be epitomised by using both of them together. They’re just really good at what they do.
So are German duo Joshua Kimmich and Toni Kroos, who can provide basically the exact same functions as Modrić and Kanté (maybe not the box-to-box engine-ness but still), and they take up a rightful place on the bench. And no, I’m really not short on options here, since Sergej Milinković-Savić, Marco Verratti, Frenkie de Jong, Paul Pogba, Corentin Tolisso, Miralem Pjanić, Saúl Ñiguez, Leon Goretzka, Ivan Rakitić, Youri Tielemans, and several others, could all easily stake a claim to be in the team. But I’ve only got room for four midfielders so, I guess they’re going to have to sit this one out for the time being.
Attacking Midfielders: Kevin de Bruyne & Bruno Fernandes
Sitting in behind my two strikers, who we’ll be getting to shortly, our unquestioned starter is Kevin de Bruyne. He’s had his injury struggles, yes, but he’s still the creative force for Manchester City, getting involved in scoring, assisting, bossing the midfield, spraying passes left, right and centre, and generally being a bit of a baller. So while he goes straight into the team, who joins him on the bench? Well, I scouted all of Europe, and could have gone with a number of big names, like de Bruyne’s City teammate David Silva, fellow Premier League star Mesut Özil, his German pal Thomas Müller, the Great Dane himself, Christian Eriksen, or Serbian star Dušan Tadić, to name but a few.
However, at the risk of jumping on the hype train, and at the risk of angering basically every Manchester United fan out there, purely on current form, I have reluctantly included Bruno Fernandes in this team. Admittedly, since he’s arrived at Old Trafford, Bruno seems to have taken the wheel from Ole and made it his own, offering a new dimension to the attack that was sorely missing before. But it’s not exactly like he was bad beforehand either. I think he’s earned his place here… for now. I’d probably be swapping him regularly with Tadić, who has been in immense form since his move to Ajax, but we’ll just put ol’ Bruno in for the time being.
Right Wingers: Kylian Mbappé & Serge Gnabry
It’s true that this XI is pretty attack-heavy, but given the amount of talent there is across the continent it isn’t hard to see why. On the right of the midfield, we’re forced to shunt Kylian Mbappé out there in order to accommodate our striking duo. To be fair, Mbappé is pretty used to playing on the right for both club and country, it’d just be good to see him playing more centrally as he continues his progression into a world-class superstar. There’s no way I’m leaving him out of this squad. Same with Serge Gnabry, whose transfer away from Arsenal a few years ago still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Seriously, someone who was once labelled to not be ‘good enough for West Brom’ is now one of the best wingers in world football. Fuming.
While I calm myself down, let’s also not forget Bernardo Silva, Adama Traoré, Memphis Depay or Wissam Ben Yedder, who I’m sure wouldn’t mind getting into this team in some way, shape or form.
Left Wingers: Antoine Griezmann & Eden Hazard
This decision was one of the easier ones for this team, as both are among the best in the game, even if current form doesn’t do their quality justice. Griezmann has one of the best left feet on the planet, scores bucketloads of goals, and is one of the most majestic and skilful players there is, to my mind. The same could be said of Belgian star Hazard, who may not have lived up to expectations since joining Real Madrid last summer, but he can’t not be included in this team. Just look his dribbling and tell me he shouldn’t be here.
Dries Mertens, Leroy Sané, Anthony Martial and Lorenzo Insigne are all also worthy of a mention and a possible call-up in the case of injury to one of the two left-footed wing wizards.
Strikers: Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski, Ciro Immobile & Timo Werner
Even with four possible striking options to put into this team, this was still a challenge to pick the four best, as I’m sure you can imagine. But I think this is arguably as good as it’s going to get.
Starting up front, we have to have Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski. Even though Ronaldo is 35 at this point, his status as one of the game’s all-time greats is unwavering, and even has 25 goals this season for Juventus, which for someone his age is pretty darned impressive. Lewandowski, meanwhile, has 39 goals from 33 games for Bayern Munich, and has hit 40+ goals in each of the last four seasons. This means that we have two born goalscorers leading the line, solidifying an already top-heavy team that is practically bursting goals.
On the bench, I can’t really look past Ciro Immobile and Timo Werner. Immobile, who is actually capable of movement even though his name suggests otherwise, currently leads the Serie A goalscoring charts with 27 goals, with Werner behind only Lewandowski in the Bundesliga. Just missing out is Erling Braut Håland, who at just 19 has been a revelation this season, but having already reluctantly jumped on the Bruno Fernandes bandwagon, this is one I won’t be jumping on for now. He’s a great prospect, but let’s give him another full season first. I’ll also give mentions to Romelu Lukaku, Diego Costa, Karim Benzema and Josip Iličić, who could all probably be in this squad on another day.
Manager: Jürgen Klopp
I don’t really want to enter into a debate about who’s the better manager out of Klopp and Pep Guardiola, because the two of them are probably the best managers in world football at this current moment, and both are excellent in their own right. But, you only need to take one look at the Premier League table to see who’s been having a better season, so in my humble opinion, Klopp takes the biscuit here. Sorry to any Manchester City ‘fans’ this decision may offend.
Obviously Europe is full of world-class managers, and any one of the likes of Joachim Löw, Max Allegri, Julien Nagelsmann, Nuno Espirito Santo, José Mourinho, Zinedine Zidane or Didier Deschamps could feature here, among many others. But you can’t say no to Mr. Klopp at this current time.
So there we have it guys, another fictitious victim of Stalinism, another world-beating team. I’d be pretty overwhelmed if I was put in charge of managing this group, not least due to the ever-lingering threat of death from above, but it may still be a lark regardless.
I hope you’re enjoying this scenictrip through 1984, and if you are be sure to check out the other squads I’ve compiled for your self-isolating pleasure.
Long live Big Brother.